I still don’t love him, but you can’t ignore the 61-year-old force of nature and partner at Kirkland & Ellis. He is full of great stories and is one of the best-connected people in the Washington-Baltimore region.
He has a killer view from his office overlooking the Treasury and the White House, and an ego-wall full of photos. There’s Michael Jordan and Arnold Palmer, the Bushes and Clintons, and plenty more from years of elephant bumping.
A shrinking violet he isn’t.
Stamas has been instrumental in some of the biggest recent deals in the region, including Constellation Energy’s sale to Exelon, Ted Leonsis’s purchase of Verizon Center and its teams, and SRA International’s sale to Providence Equity Partners.
He also has been an investor and board member at successful companies such as FTI Consulting, where he still sits on the board, and not-so-successful flame-outs such as NexCen Brands, which was previously known as Aether Systems.
Stamas, who relishes the role of “consigliere,” doesn’t do it all himself. He relies on a pair of loyal veterans, Mark Director and Andrew Herman, for heavy legal lifting. There is a deep bench behind them, as well.
We broke bread a few weeks ago at the Prime Rib, restaurateur Buzz Beler’s K Street retro version of the 1970s Washington power scene.
Stamas grew up in Baltimore, where his father owned the Hilltop Diner, reportedly the model for the movie “Diner.” He arrives at 12:30 promptly, plops down next to me in a remote corner table and starts reminiscing.
“I think there’s no better setting for me than me being in here,” he said, ordering a Spicy Virgin and surveying the room. “The original Prime Rib opened in Baltimore in October 1965. The Beler family was great friends of my family. When I think of my life, and even my career and closing dinners and important family dates, it all sort of ends with the Prime Rib.”
How, I wanted to know, did you end up doing sports deals?
“When [Orioles former owner] Edward Bennett Williams was passing away, I was trying to buy the Orioles for the USF&G Corporation, which was the most important company in Baltimore.”
The attempt failed, and the team went to businessman Eli Jacobs. But Jacobs eventually went bankrupt and was forced to sell. Stamas said Major League Baseball preferred another buyer until Stamas and another Baltimore lawyer, Peter Angelos, stepped forward.
“I call Peter Angelos and said, ‘Look, Peter, you know this has to go to bankruptcy court. Let’s make an effort to try to go for the highest bid.’ ”
He persuaded Angelos because “he didn’t want to see the team go into the hands of somebody else. He is a real homer.”
Angelos eventually won the team for $172 million.
I tell him he negotiated a bad deal for Leonsis to buy the money-losing Capitals in 1999 for more than $80 million. He also bought a 45 percent ownership stake in the Wizards and Verizon Center, then known as MCI Center, but the transactions left the former AOL mogul as a renter in the facility and the late Abe Pollin’s minority partner in the basketball franchise, with no voice in running the team.